I’d like to welcome a guest article by Scott Sanders. Scott hosts CancerWell.org to promote self-care and spiritual wellness for those who are enduring cancer treatment or for those helping someone through cancer treatment.
*The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the authors. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of Driving Force Fitness, Tiffany Damle or its members. The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
What Spiritual Self-Care Looks Like for Those with Cancer
By Scott Sanders
The psychological and emotional stress of a cancer diagnosis and subsequent treatment can be tremendous. Research has found that people who incorporate spiritual and emotional wellness into their overall treatment strategy feel better and have better outcomes.
A one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work when it comes to practicing spiritual self-care and wellness. Everyone has differing opinions on what spirituality means, and everyone puts it into practice differently. For some, spirituality means an organized religion with specific practices and beliefs. For others, spirituality is about the meaning and purpose we define for ourselves.
As one oncologist-turned-chaplin told Cancer Today magazine, “I will say, ‘What do you believe in?’ It could be family, it could be artwork, it could be beauty. All of those are manifestations of that person’s spirituality.”
Whatever your philosophy, here are some spiritual issues that can arise during a person’s cancer journey, and what self-care actions you can take to resolve them.
A crisis of faith. Being faced with a life-threatening illness like cancer is more than enough to make you question your beliefs. Know that this is only natural. Don’t fault yourself for any doubts you may be having. Instead, try to be forward-thinking. Identify your emotions. Then, decide how you want to process and react. Are you feeling angry, as if God is undeservedly punishing you? Are you feeling abandoned by Him?
A renewed interest in faith. Just as the devout sometimes have a crisis of faith after a cancer diagnosis, the nonreligious (or those who have lapsed in religious practice) sometimes feel a pull toward spirituality after being diagnosed. This, too, is perfectly natural. Explore this renewed interest and see where it takes you.
No change at all. Cancer doesn’t shake everyone’s faith. Many people feel the exact same way about God, the universe and man’s purpose on Earth as they did before their diagnoses. Again, this is normal. If you feel your spiritual wellness remains at a positive status quo, then feel free to focus on other aspects of wellness.
Loneliness. Cancer can be a lonely disease. It may take you away from work, school or other social groups. It may also drive away folks who don’t know how to handle someone battling an illness. And interactions with your loved ones can be strained for various reasons. Bible study groups or counseling with a faith representative can often counteract these feelings of loneliness. They can offer emotional support or a distraction, depending on what their focus is.
Emotional stress. Fear that treatment won’t work, the financial burden of medical bills, and the shakeup of daily routines leading to strained relationships with those around you -- all of these things are stress-inducing. Part of spiritual self-care is finding peace amid the chaos of life. Find ways to destress and relax. Try guided deep breathing, meditation or prayer. Even reading scripture can be relaxing.
Physical pain. Cancer treatment or management can be brutal on the body. Patients must find ways to cope with their pain, and an over-reliance on addictive medications needs to be avoided. Individual or group prayer, listening to spiritual music, and meditation can all be healthy coping mechanisms. In fact, the simple act of stretching can help people cope with pain, as well as help alleviate stress and anxiety, improve circulation, and improve your mood.
Cabin fever. Cancer typically takes center stage, and sometimes, that leads to us forgetting about the world around us. We can get a bit stir crazy. Many people find a spiritual connection in nature. Take a walk, even if it’s short and slow. Sit on the patio and enjoy listening to the birds sing. It can do wonders to clear your mind. Spending time indoors also means you’re not getting as much fresh air, which is important for our immune systems. Since getting outside isn’t always feasible, it’s important to pay attention to the quality of your indoor air. Things like air purifiers and MERV-rated air filters from companies such as Lennox can help improve the air you breathe.
Spirituality manifests itself differently in everyone, but incorporating it into your life has tremendous benefits for cancer patients.
Photo via Pexels.